Several drivers on playoff bubble have had past Michigan success

The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season has produced 14 different winners, tied with the 2017 season for the most different winners through 22 races during the elimination-style Playoff Era (2014-2022), leaving just two spots still up for grabs on points as the series heads to Michigan International Speedway for race No. 23 of the season.

Just four races remain in the NASCAR Cup Series regular season and tensions are running high in the garage for the competitors that haven’t secured their spot in the postseason. Currently, the final two remaining transfer Playoff spots on points are occupied by Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney (15th, +121 points above the cutline) and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. (16th, +96 points above cutline).

Heading into Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, several former winners at the track will be looking to return to Victory Lane this weekend, especially those that are winless this season. Of that group, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick bolsters the most success at the two-mile track with wins in all three of NASCAR’s national series; including the series-most among active drivers (five) in the NASCAR Cup Series. He also has a victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series (2003) and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (2011). Harvick and Kyle Busch are the only two active drivers with wins in all three NASCAR national series at Michigan. Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney is the only other former active Cup Series Michigan winner still looking for his first win of the season.

This week, Stewart-Haas Racing announced a reshuffle of their competition leadership within the organization and one driver hoping it pays dividends in their success is veteran Harvick, who sits 17th in the Playoff outlook standings 96 points back from the postseason cutline with just four races left in the regular season.

Kevin Harvick during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Consmers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 12, 2018 in Brooklyn, Michigan.

The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season wins leader (nine wins), Harvick, returns to Michigan International Speedway still riding a winless streak that dates back to Bristol Motor Speedway on Sept. 19, 2020 – 65 races ago.

Looking to snap his winless stretch this weekend and lock himself into the Playoffs, Harvick will be making his 42nd career start at the two-mile facility in the Irish Hills. And luckily for him, Michigan has been a bastion of success, as he leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in wins at the track with five (2010, 2018, 2019, 2020-1, 2020-2); including becoming the first driver in series history to win on back-to-back days at the same track (2020). In 41 starts at Michigan, the Bakersfield, California native has managed to put up five wins, 15 top fives and 21 top 10s. He finished 14th in the Michigan race last season.

Blaney revisits Michigan International Speedway with hopes of returning to Victory Lane this weekend and making it back-to-back victories at the two-mile facility. If Blaney wins this weekend, he will become the 11th different driver to win consecutive NASCAR Cup Series races at Michigan International Speedway joining:

  1. Bobby Allison (1971 sweep),
  2. David Pearson (1972 sweep – 1973), (1974-1975),
  3. Cale Yarborough (1983 sweep),
  4. Bill Elliott (1985 sweep – 1986 sweep),
  5. Bobby Labonte (1995 sweep),
  6. Mark Martin (1997-1998),
  7. Ryan Newman (2003-2004),
  8. Greg Biffle (2004-2005), (2012-2013)
  9. Kyle Larson won three-straight at Michigan (2016-2017).
  10. Kevin Harvick (2019, 2020-1, 2020-2) – only driver to win in consecutive days at a single track. 

The 28-year-old from High Point, North Carolina, Blaney, is currently ranked 15th in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff outlook, 121 points ahead of Harvick in 17th – the first spot outside the postseason cutoff. In 22 starts this season, Blaney has scored five stage wins, seven top-five and 10 top-10 finishes.

Last season, Blaney only led the final eight laps of the race after taking the lead on the final restart en route to his win. In total, Blaney has made 13 starts at the two-mile track, posting one win (2021), four top fives and six top 10s. His average finish at Michigan is 15.231 – 10th best among active drivers.

Truex Jr. is 0-for-31 at Michigan but has been around the top 5 a lot there lately.

RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski (two wins) and Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon (one win) each have NASCAR Xfinity Series victories at Michigan International Speedway, and both need a win this season to get into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. In last season’s Cup race, Keselowski finished ninth and Dillon was caught in an incident relegating him to a 36th.

23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola each have NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins at Michigan and are looking for their first wins of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season. Last year, Almirola finished 17th and Wallace 19th in the Cup race.

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